Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It may be that nothing will focus a sailor's attention more than chopping a giant hole in the deck of his or her boat.  Even when the hole is about as far above the water line as it is possible to be, cranking up the saw and slicing through the fiberglass that carries the load of the fore deck and separates one from the elements seems a drastic kind of thing.

With The Floating Bear floating peacefully on her mooring ball in Dinner Key, and a day or two of not doing much of anything at all, it is time to turn some attention to Kintala and her own project list. At the top of that list is the soft spot not far aft of her bow, favoring the port side, and encroaching on the cleat.  It has been there since we bought the boat and reminded me of a task that needed done every time I went forward to attend to dropping or pulling the hook.  Time to take a deep breath and crank up  the cutter.

Hammer taps outlined the area of ugly needing to be uncovered, though thought was given to the finished product.  The soft spot spans two sections of non-skid across a band of gel-coat.  The call was to make the cut inside one section of non-skid and assault some of the bad core, as it were, from the side. I like the idea of chopping in such a way as to save the top piece for later, glassing it back down on the new core to complete the repair.  This requires not butchering it up when slicing it out and easing it off of the core.

By the way, assaulting the bad core from the side is not in the books anywhere, at least not in any of the sailboat repair books I could find.  According to the sailboat experts solid, un-compromised core has to be exposed in order to do a good repair.  Since I have long lost faith in sailboat experts, some of this is getting made up as we go.

Anyway, tape lines laid down, the saw went to work.  The trick is to cut deep enough to free the top layer but not deep enough to cut the bottom layer of the composite deck.  (Or, in this case, deep enough to cut through the interior and open the V-berth to the sky.)  It isn't nearly as hard to do as it sounds. There is a clear difference in feel when the blade slices through hard fiberglass into mushy wood. Once the cut was complete the task was to ease the top layer off without breaking it into several useless pieces.

The trick to that is to use a multitude of prying tools; screwdrivers, putty knives, picks, hacksaw blades, whatever works to separate the glass from the wood.  Throw in a ton of patience.  When something starts to crack, stop and take a different approach.  It took more than an hour of being careful, but the top layer of deck came away as clean as could  have been hoped.

The ugly lay underneath, exactly as expected.  Water actually ran along the putty knives, screwdrivers and, eventually, vacuum cleaner attachment, as the work went on.  Rotten wood covered a good bit of the fore deck before it was over.  Eventually most of the evil core was gone and a DA sander went to work, smoothing out the top of the bottom layer of composite and the bottom of the top layer.  So long as the sun was baking the repair it was left exposed to dry out.  It gets covered at night in case of rain, but for the next day or two it will be left opened to dry.

That will give me time to plan the sideways attack on the bad core.  There are several options. Latest and greatest would be to fill the undercut deck with structural foam.  I worked with the stuff years ago while building experimental radar jamming drones to be launched from Nuke attack B-52's whose purpose was to give the Ruskies too many radar hits to shoot at.  Once mixed it swells up like the Blob of horror picture shows then dries sin hard. But it isn't cheap and getting it in the right place at the right time can be a challenge.

Old school would be to make this part of the fore deck a solid laminate using glass mat and resin, stuffing the voids using any tools that work.  Middle school would be to mix up some resin and thicken it with silicon to fill the voids.  The concern with both of these is, given the angles and areas involved, getting a solid fill. I'll have to think on this one a bit.

All in all though, the focus is back on Kintala and getting her ready to  go cruising again.  And that is a good kind of focus.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Anchoring and Liberty

Deb thinks I should put a warning label on this one, so ... if your skin is particularly thin this morning you might want to come back later.

Rumor has it that the State of Florida, listening to the demands of McMansion owners, is contemplating a ban on all overnight anchoring of all boats in all of its waters. There is no telling if such a ban will ever make it into law and, if so, when. There is also no telling if any such law will survive the inevitable legal challenges. In any case, as a member of the cruising community at which the law is specifically aimed, a few thoughts come to mind.

We are in Florida at the moment. Have been for a few months actually. Most of our time here has been spent on a dock or a mooring ball. Both cost a lot of money for a modest return. Dinner Key is our favorite place to stay in Fl, and the customer service is excellent. But we pay for a mooring that is completely exposed to Biscayne Bay. There are days, weeks, where being there is barely tenable. Even when the Bay itself is not beating up the place, the wakes from power boaters blasting full song down the channel only to chop the throttles right at the "NO WAKE" sign, will send the unprepared in the mooring field flying. It is a long ride to the dingy dock. The bathrooms are modest and there is no real lounge where one might sit and get some work done on the internet.

Currently we are on a dock, a hideously expensive dock where customer service ranges from spotty to downright surly. The office is usually unattended, internet access is horrible, and we are constantly at risk from the antics of power boaters using the launch ramps. Again there is no real lounge, just a few chairs and a card table scattered around the laundry room.

Anchoring off is the free market alternative to putting up with these bandits. Isn't Florida one of those Big Red states where such ideas are worshiped? In fact, isn't this whole place supposed to be one of those "god wants us to keep Big Brother Government off our backs" places? Demanding that government keep free-spirited cruisers from dropping a hook in public waters to avoid being raped by a scruples-lacking money grubber, isn't that an affront to the Big Red God?  Some of the disciples were fishermen. Surely they anchored out once in a while to avoid paying some lowlife carpetbagger for access to a dock that was falling apart and lacked any place to park their asses.

The hypocrisy seems blatant, though one of the realizations that have come with more than a handful of decades of life, is that hypocrites are blind to their own hypocrisy. Somehow having my modest (though pretty – if I do say so myself) sailboat in their view of the water is an assault to their freedom even though, when I leave, the water will be undisturbed. But me having their hideous cubes of wretched excess and monuments to egomania blocking my view of the shoreline, marred by their assault on the land and the environment, is perfectly okay. My home they want banned, though no cruiser is making a similar demand about their homes.

Their home vs mine suggests that cruisers, in nothing but the most general of terms, are far better human beings than are those complaining about us. If it comes to standing before the Big Red God, I'll state my case and take my chances on having lived my life as I have, as opposed to how they have lived theirs.

Of course the hypocrisy goes much deeper. The "small government, personal liberty" claim is nothing but an empty slogan. Those who mouth it are in the service of big money. Small government can't stop big money from doing whatever it wants to get bigger, and that includes stomping on any civil right that impinges on the bottom line or, in this case, perceived property value. Personal liberty isn't even a consideration. But here is the thing ...

Liberty is not the right to self-absorbed narcissism. Liberty is the chance to live in a society where the value and aspirations of each individual are cherished and supported by every other member of that community. Liberty is found where universal civil rights are protected by the full weight of a first world society. Liberty is every individual being rewarded for his or her contribution to a better life for themselves and others, where no one gets rich off the labor of another. Liberty exists where no one is allowed to coerce another in any way for any thing, and is only found where the full resources of a society are focused on protecting me from you, and you from me.

Liberty is not an individual thing. It is a gift offered to each individual of an enlightened and powerful community.

Liberty is too difficult, too complicated, and too fragile an accomplishment for any single person to manage alone. Liberty is the reward for a community working together to build a better life for themselves, their kids, and their grand kids.

Americans have come to hate anything that even hints at a community.  Our political system has devolved into an endless, 3-way battle between the party of "All I care about is getting mine" vs the party of "All I care about is getting yours" vs the party of "All I care about is getting everybody's". America's budget is based on the belief that it will be at war with nearly everyone, nearly all the time. Working with anyone to accomplish anything that benefits a larger community is demonized as socialism.  We can't even build roads anymore, or fix bridges.

Which is why liberty is being lost in the United States of America.

The proposed anchoring law in Florida is as good an example as any.

NOTE:  My friend Robert has issues with this post.  They are based on a much deeper understanding of Florida politics than is mine and, perhaps, a fundamentally different world view.  If he gives me permission I will cut and paste his comments here.  Until then please go to the comments section and read what he has to say.  It will a be good use of a few minutes of your  day!

Friday, August 15, 2014

No more "BOOM"

Champaigne on the bow and in the water for Neptune

Around 0900 this morning we officially notified King Neptune that S/V Obsession had passed into history to be replaced by H/V (Hybrid Vessel) The Floating Bear. His forbearance on new ship and crew was requested with the proper sacrifice of bubbly offered.  At 0915 Husband to Daughter Eldest tickled The Bear's engine to life, and at 0930 we eased away from Cooley's landing, did a pirouette in the New River and headed outbound. With a new air draft of less than 10 feet we didn't bother the 7th Street bridge tender as we coasted under his domain with air to spare.

Searching for a bit to find an engine RPM that felt "right", The Bear settled into a 2100 RPM cruise making about 4.5 knots, even pulling the 12' hard bottomed tender, Eeyore, on a short tether. Roughly 938,700 revolutions later we nosed up to mooring ball No. 34 at Dinner Key, secured a couple of lines, and The Floating Bear was home.

Given all the work that we did, the trip was a mechanical snoozer. I think the engine is making a little too much smoke and a little too little water. By the end of the day my ear was picking up a little more exhaust noise, so there are some things that still need a good look. Minutes after securing the engine one of the two brand new, properly wired and "ARMED" bilge pumps kicked on. The new stuffing box needed a bit of a snug, not unexpected after 7 hours of continuous running.  I made a late day visit to the lazarette to shut off the drip.  Rudder bearings are a bit snug, and there are still a couple of minor interior leaks.

"How," you might ask, "would you know that?"

Well, though the trip was a mechanical snooze, weather wise it was a different issue. Half way down the ICW, somewhere around Bakers Haulover Inlet, we were watching the sky get darker and the lightning flash.  A storm thundered by one side, another passed by the other side, but the third caught us just as we cleared the Venetian Causeway Bridge. From there until we were well clear of the Rickenbacker Causeway the rains pounded The Bear as if to test her ability to stay afloat. The winds howled and visibility dropped to a couple of hundred yards. It was easily some of the hardest rain I have ever seen.  The Bear was mostly dry inside, didn't seem to mind the winds much, shrugged off the waves, and just kept muttering along.

Daughter Eldest and Grand Sons two had taken the car south to do some pre-school preparations and avoiding having two young ones on board for what was nothing short of a sea-trail. They were waiting for us when we arrived.  So, after waiting out some more rain, Deb and I made like normal people and borrowed their car to get back to Kintala. We will head back down to Coconut Grove tomorrow ... sometime ... likely not very early ... to finish up a bit of wiring that was left undone and return their wheels. Public transport will get us home and there is a pretty good chance we are going to take a few days off.

On the one hand it is a huge relief to have The Bear back to where she needs to be for the reasons she needs to be there. Deb and I can now focus on salvaging our cruising plans, figuring out where we want to be in a year and how we can get there. The work list for Kintala, now somewhat truncated by budget and time constraints, can be addressed. These have been some stormy seas since Kintala returned to the States. The stress of the voyage is showing.

On the other hand – well - during the official Name Changing Ceremony this morning Grampy T got choked up around the part of watching over the newly renamed boat and crew as they set sail. Dema had to take over. It reminded me that this was yet another "cruiser good-by".  Christopher and little JJ will not be clambering around Kintala like they have been for the last several months. Daughter Eldest and Husband will be concentrating on other things a day's sail away (though only an hour by car). That part of my heart isn't as far away as those in St. Louis, but they aren't just down the dock anymore either.

Tough as these past couple of months have been, I am going to miss singing "BOOM" at the sky. It isn't nearly as much fun without little voices joining in.

Try keeping a toddler still for a cellphone picture...

Peeking out through the mosquito netting - the first night back on the boat.

A few days ago - the Bear starting to look a bit more like home again.

Home Sweet Home. The end of the channel at Dinner Key

Monday, August 11, 2014

Boats and Bears and Trains ... oh my

The crew of The Floating Bear moved back aboard a couple of days ago. Alas, that has not led to any appreciable easing of the work load. The DC electrical system is still a work in progress even though the batteries have found their way to a new home in the starboard side lazarette.  Switch panels are held in place with tape and wiring runs are still being unscrambled.  A whole heap of zip-ties are about to be sacrificed in order to bring order, but at least the lights are working.

There are solar panels to hang and wire, and the water system is not cooperating for reasons as yet to be determined. Massive leaks in the cabin windows are being addressed by actually re-bedding them. By all appearances others have made at least four attempts to stop the leaks. That is the number of different kinds of sealer found piled one on top of another. Needless to say the efforts proved fruitless and the windows leak like screen doors with the first drizzle of rain. It must be admitted that trying to remove said layers is nearly fruitless as well.  One long day of effort is required for each of the four windows.  That task has fallen mostly to Deb as I have been banished to spending my days in the lazarette, tied in a knot of wiring.  There is also a debate raging about the new holding tank install.

The fitting for sucking the nasty away is located at the top of the tank. When I asked about it needing a tube reaching near the bottom of the tank for the system to work properly I was assured by a guru of all things nautical that it would not be necessary. I admit to having doubts. Nomad was - and Kintala is - plumbed with that fitting at the bottom of the holding tank. Normal pump type sucking gets the desired results without the need of enthusiastic vacuum / weight lifting type sucking. If a suck pipe needs installed I would rather do it now than after the tank is full of smelly brown stuff. An internet search did not shed much light on the subject of holding tank sucking in sailboats, and far be it from me to question the sage wisdom of a guru of all things nautical based on my scant experienced with just two such systems.  But I still wonder if that tank needs a pipe stuck in it for a proper sucking to take place. (Advice based on the cumulative wisdom of the gurus of all things nautical who find their way to these musings will not be ignored.)

Other challenges go beyond that of just trying to repair the boat and get the systems working properly. The budget burden has escalated to the point of being crushing. Searching for income to offset the outflow is now solidly in the short term future. (Anyone who could use an pretty accomplished airplane driver in the Miami / Ft Lauderdale area should feel free to speak up. I know where one can be found.) The schedule burden has become impossible. The boat was supposed to leave yesterday for a mooring field near to where Grandson Eldest will be starting school scant days from now. I think he is going to need a note from his boat doctor.

At the moment we have no real clue as to what to do other than get up each morning and struggle on. This is family, those for whom all of us would step in front of a train, if necessary, to keep them safe and whole. What is a Bear in comparison to a train?  And, at least with a Bear, one might actually live to tell the tale.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marina Musings

Magothy River Anchorage, MD
Deciding to go cruising is a long process. Most people who decide to go cruising don't know anyone else doing it personally and have never been out cruising with friends, so the picture of what cruising actually is is pretty indistinct. This was certainly true for us as was evidenced by the fact that we never even thought about the ICW in our planning. We thought about long ocean passages, we thought about weather, we thought about equipment as related to passages and weather, but the idea that we would motor down the ICW some 1000 miles just never even entered our minds.

One of the biggest things we've learned about cruising in general this past year is that it's important to think about what kind of cruiser you want to be, and to be honest with yourself about whether you have the abilities and characteristics to be that kind of cruiser. It will impact the way you prepare to cruise, the things you purchase, the things you bring from your land life, and your expectations. We've said often on this blog in recent months that we always pictured ourselves as blue water cruisers, taking long passages and rarely sitting for long periods of time. This reasoning came as a result of our long passages around New England and with John Kretschmer in the Bahamas, passages where there was adequate crew to ease the load of passage making. The reality of it was that we suffered more from sea sickness than we thought we would, and sail changes at night in bad weather were more stressful than we were comfortable with. We simply didn't enjoy it when we were short handed.

Broad Creek Anchorage, NC
I never really began to think about what kind of cruiser I wanted to be until our friend Kacey came to visit for two weeks. He wanted to spend a prolonged time out “doing it” and toward the end when we had some long, ranging talks about his experiences he said he had decided he was more a liveaboard than a cruiser. It really got me on this train of thought and with every passing month, and with every additional experience, our “kind of cruiser” is being better defined.

So what does this have to do with the title of this blog post? Because for the last month we've been parked at a dock in a marina. It's a nice marina with great reviews on Active Captain, beautiful landscaping, a view of some incredible yachts, good dock mates, and all the conveniences of home. So why do I hate it? Because Kintala can't swing into the wind and the sun doesn't do its ripple reflection thing on the ceiling in the morning, the water is disgusting, there's no dolphins and I've gotten hurt not once, but twice getting on and off the boat at high tide. One kind of cruiser I definitely don't want to be is a marina rat.

Pungo River Anchorage NC
This is not to say that being a marina rat isn't a good thing. For some people. There are a half dozen people here who live full time in the marina, most of them on trawlers of some sort, although a few are on sailboats. If being a liveaboard is your thing then a marina is the place to be. A continuing flow of ice and clean clothes and long showers is not to be taken lightly, and we've been in a few really exceptional ones like Oak Harbor and Barefoot. But would I trade it for a mooring? In a heartbeat.

We've spent a good bit of time on the Vero Beach mooring field, and it's called Velcro Beach for a good reason. Great protection, excellent dinghy dock and lounge/shower/laundry facilities, free bus service, and a beautiful beach. The best beach, though was at Treasure Cay, Abacos. The moorings there are reasonable at $20 a day, and the facilities are great. St. Augustine was one of those places where the mooring field sucked because it's so exposed and the dinghy ride to the dock is long and wet, but the town made up for it with rich history everywhere. More recently we spent quite a bit of time in Coconut Grove at the Dinner Key Mooring Facility. As far as moorings go, the actual mooring field sucks like St. Augustine because it's so exposed. The exposure does give you a fantastic skyline view of downtown Miami and oncoming thunderstorms, fresh air and a nearly constant breeze abound, and the mosquitoes are few if you're out far enough. The reason we would go back there, though, is the staff. Patrick and his staff are without any doubt the most talented customer service division we've seen on a mooring field anywhere. They are helpful, polite, prompt, knowledgeable, and make you feel like you're the only reason they're there. And yet...

From the dock at Oriental, NC
We would still rather anchor out when given the choice. We are almost always happier when we are cozied up in a cove somewhere either by ourselves or with a couple other boats. It's best if the water is clear, the bottom sandy, and the weather warm, but we've equally enjoyed some cold, gray, stormy anchorages with cups of coffee and warm sweatshirts. We've anchored up rivers in Maryland, in inlets in South Carolina, in bays in North Carolina, along long stretches of beach in the Abacos, in a tiny cove in Egg Island, Eleuthra, in Middle River, FL, and right smack dab in the middle of Nassau. Each one has had its own flavor, each one serves to meet a mood.

Camp LeJeune Anchorage

After a year of thinking about this all, here's my Pros and Cons list for each. What kind of cruiser are you?


Pros Cons
Air conditioning in hot climates, heat in cold. Noise: other boats, road and city traffic, neighbors
Easy access to groceries, trash, water, electricity, laundry, and sometimes (if you're very lucky) wifi Wifi rarely works
You get to meet more people You have to put up with people that you may not care for
Easier to work on the boat Harder to go sailing since you're established in one place
Ice Cream Access: 10 Wakes from passing power boaters

You spend WAY more money because everything is so accessible
No need for a dinghy dock Hard to get on and off the boat when docks are not floating. Easy to get hurt.
No running the generator. Power at the dock is low quality and we've had two shore power cords burn in 7 years.

Services vary wildy for the same money. The best marina we ever stayed in cost 1/3 of our current dock.

Charleston, SC anchorage


Pros Cons
More stable ride since the boat always swings into the wind Sometimes exposed
Good ventilation since the boat swings into the wind Sometimes relatively expensive. Quality is inconsistent
Less worry about dragging in high winds You need to know the quality of the mooring
Relatively accessible to services like groceries, banks, laundry, etc., depending on the mooring You spend more money than anchoring
You can run the generator but... Some people don't want to hear it
Most mooring fields have cruiser nets to facilitate getting to meet people For some reason jet skis feel it is their personal duty to run high speed through mooring fields. Honestly. Every one we've been in.
Dinghy dock available

Ice Cream Access: 8

South Beach Miami Anchorage

Pros Cons
Freedom. You rarely have anyone telling you what to do, anchoring well is a challenge and builds skill You're totally responsible for your safety
You pick the view Services vary depending on where you pick
Free Sometimes harder to meet people
Ventilation is good since the boat always swings into the wind Sometimes people can anchor too close or be obnoxious
Did I mention free? Ice Cream Access: Dependent on location, but usually around a 4
4G cell internet available in most populated areas, even in the Bahamas. We were rarely without it Wifi is rarely available without an extender, and even with one most wifi is password protected now
Privacy is excellent Dinghy docks are hard to come by and usually cost
You can run the generator whenever you feel like it

No-Name Harbor, FL
Hatchet Bay, Eleuthra Anchorage
Dinner Key Mooring Facility, FL

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The light at the end of the tunnel ...

... we can see it, but we can't seem to get there. For the last several days we were sure that the family would start putting some stuff back on The Floating Bear, and soon after move onto their newly refurbished little floating home. But the first day such was anticipated it was discovered that the companionway steps / engine cover had to be repaired before any moving would commence. The little ones, in particular, could not be expected to move back on the boat if they couldn't actually get down into the boat.

The floor, you see, is back where the floor was when the boat came out of the factory. The stairs, on the other hand, had been hacked to fit the floor that had been laid over the original floor when that original floor rotted. When the second floor rotted and was covered with a cheap, cardboard faux wood cover, the steps had been hacked again. Un-hacking them, and fixing related engine bay items, took longer than expected.

Move the light back a day.

The next day Daughter Eldest was first to the boat, excited to be moving stuff and perhaps a bit preoccupied. She slipped on the cockpit floor which, truth to tell, is very slippery under normal conditions. Throw in a thin layer of sawdust from all the woodworking going on and it gets down-right ice rinky. Her foot gave way, momentum carried said foot the short distance across the cockpit followed by her full weight. Her full weight, by the way, is barely 100 pounds. But it was enough to cause loud crunching noises when toes crashed into fiberglass. She is still using a crutch but moving around better.

Move the light back a day.

That day it was decided the head plumbing should really be finished before starting to stuff things into every available locker. Good thought, and there were only four hoses needing run, along with a couple of 90 degree fittings. How long could it take?

Move the light back a day.

This day would be THE day. Just a quick repair of an easily accessible water tank needed to be done first. And it was a pretty quick repair. Removing the old repair however; completely different story. That repair -honest, I am not making this up - included a blue paper towel being fiberglassed over the open, six inch crack in the top of the tank. The other six inch crack in the top of the tank was spooged over with white goop. Some of the white goop had been reinforced with its own coat of fiberglass resin while the rest had been left to fend for itself.  Grinding all that foolishness away without adding additional holes in the top of the plastic tank took a while.

Move the light back a day.

Once upon an idiot's dream someone installed a hatch in the port side quarter berth wrong-side-out. It hung dogging handles and hatch in the cockpit sidewall, down around shin height and just aft of the companionway. Honest – I am not making this up, it opened OUT to the cockpit where it has caused many a bruise. It wasn't a stellar day. I tangled with the hatch, got fed up, chewed that thing out with my teeth and spat it into the New River ... okay, I might have made that bit up. But that hatch is GONE and the hole sealed tight with a new pane of Plexiglas
The light had already been moved back another day so, what the hell. Get another thing done to undo a thing that should never have been done in the first place. Just like the water tank, floor, headliner, compression post, mast step, chain-plates and rudder; that hatch install was about the dumbest bit of butt sorry maintenance imaginable.

Well, I can't imagine it, but someone did.  Anyway, I can still see the light. Maybe we will get there tomorrow.